This week in accessibility and technology

A silhouette image of a lab guide dog in harness.

This week in accessibility and technology is an ongoing series of articles focused on news about accessibility and technology for the blind and visually impaired. This week’s offerings include accessibility for visually impaired Virginia voters and more complaints registered about the “devil’s bumps” on curb corners. 

Accessible voting

First up this week, West Virginia voters who are blind or visually impaired will now be able to use a complete Voter’s Guide in Braille reports AP News. The Secretary of State Mac Warner released the guides earlier this week, and the guides were created in conjunction with the Virginia State Elections Commission. The nonprofit organization Disability Rights of West Virginia will provide the guides. The first question that should come to mind is: why is equal accessibility to voting for all citizens not defined? Did you know the right to vote is not in the constitution? There are provisions for not limiting voting based on sex and race, here is a great article which outlines the current state of the right to vote based on the current constitutional amendments.

Should voting rights be defined for all? yes. however, deciding on the wording for that definition is going to be a long difficult  process. To have proper accessibility, all voting materials should be available in both large print and braille, just like they are available in different languages. Likewise, the process of voting should provide nationwide provisions for the visually impaired. Depending on the state you live in, you can have totally a accessible experience or one where someone reads the options to you and votes for you. There should be clear unifications in the way the process is handled and it should be accessible to all. It never hurts to contact your local representative to help the ball get rolling for this important process. 

Bumpy road ahead

The Mercury News weighs in on the bumps present at curb cuts, the article below contains different people’s opinions on the usefulness and necessity of the bumps. Many weigh in on the dangerous nature and difficulty they introduce in navigation for those in wheelchairs. Even those who are not disabled comment on the dangerous nature of the bumps – they are slippery when wet and can cause fall hazards. 

More complaints (and the official response) about the ‘devil’s bumps’: Roadshow

I’m happy to weigh in on these bumps, they are an important unified landmark for the visually impaired. Unless you are visually impaired or know someone who is, the importance of permanent landmarks may well be lost on you. When a blind or visually impaired person navigates their route – say to Starbucks, they are walking and using a process called time-distance estimation to get from one landmark to another. Sometimes landmarks move – this recently happened to me. I was on my normal route on Monday morning, sometime between Friday afternoon and Monday morning, the city works crew decided to remove a planter that has been in the same spot for as long as I have been walking that route. My guide dog Fauna had no issue because she side-stepped the debris and I didn’t realize the landmark was gone until we reached the corner cut with the bumps. I doubled back and investigated and found that the planter which I usually ran my  foot along was gone. I wasn’t in an danger – I knew I was at a corner because my guide stopped me and I felt the bumps, but it was a bit confusing. If I had been using my cane I would have also detected the bumps, they may be an inconvenience to you, but they are great for the blind and visually impaired. 

Very often when changes roll out for the visually impaired, like talking or beeping signs for crossing streets, they are a benefit for the fully sighted as well. Having a unified landmark infrastructure which allows me to confidently travel my route from point A to B makes a big difference in my daily life. You can see them and avoid them, I’m sorry they are an inconvenience, but they keep me on track and keep me and many others like me oriented in our travels. 

Before you go…

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